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YOUR HEALTH: It’s mind over matter for one woman avoiding opioids

HOUSTON, Texas – I know what you're thinking: you can't just think pain away.

But in light of the opioid crisis, doctors are searching for alternatives to help patients in chronic pain.

Physical therapy, numbing creams, different drugs, these are all common alternatives.

But one woman's doctor suggested something different.

Brindell suffers from chronic back pain.

"I couldn't get down (on her knees to garden) without a lot of pain or maybe with someone helping me up."

Determined not to take opioids, Brindell was faced with a tough choice: she could get a spinal fusion to help the pain but that would mean kissing gardening goodbye.

"I was at the point where I wasn't sure what I was going to do because what I was doing wasn't working."

That's when her surgeon Dr. Rex Marco mentioned a third option: a meditation app.

Dr. Marco recommends a couple apps to his patients: The Back Doctor and Stop, Breathe, and Think.  You can find both of those for free in the app store.

Dr. Marco says pain creates a stress response in the body that can cause anxiety, causing a bigger stress response and more anxiety.

"It's this vicious circle which can be slowed down by narcotics or by other mindfulness techniques," explained the musculoskeletal oncologist.

And while opioids flood the brain with dopamine studies show that meditation can increase dopamine naturally.

"There is a scientific reason why this might help you."

RESEARCH:  In clinical trials, meditation has reduced chronic pain by 57% and it can be reduced up to 90%.  The exercise helps soothe brain patterns with pain and alters the brain structure so the patient does not feel pain at all.   Meditation has been prescribed to help patients deal with arthritis, heart disease and cancer.

Brindell says it has helped her manage pain.

"You just feel like... ahh."

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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